The Marmot with the Collar
Diary of a Philosopher

Part II - Moon of Avalanches
Second Summer

M. / M.058 - M. / M.062



Full Moon


Last Day

M. / M.058

Shall I relate this disappointment and this humiliation? Yes, I will tell all.


A hundred times my head sank, a hundred times I raised it with a start by force of will. It seems that at one time my head sank onto my breast, and that I collapsed on this far too cosy hay – curse it.


Awakening was slow, difficult, vague. I seemed to be departing from a dream, which would be starting again soon. All of a sudden, a more distinct idea crosses my mind and with a spring I am out of bed. A gleam of light penetrated to the back of my Burrow. – It is the Moon, I thought, this is the moment! – I rub my eyes to see more clearly, and I make my way toward the door of my Burrow, taking up my interrupted address: “O Marmots…” I had no time to complete it. Shame! shame! thrice shame! it was full day, and on the floor of the valley all Marmots were running to pasture. The Long Night had passed, and I had slept like the common herd.


What am I saying? I had slept more than the common herd. Yes, I, a Philosopher, who had sworn not to yield, I was the last to awake.

Last Quarter


First Day

M. / M.059

It has consoled me to set down this confession without evasion.


How to say what I felt when I saw that I was not dreaming and that it was indeed the Sun? I suffered less when I awoke among Men; I suffered less when I saw myself disowned and chased by my own Marmots. The loss of my wife and my children was less cruel for me. I huddled at the back of my hole, unworthy to look upon the light of day. I wished neither to drink nor to eat, even though I felt vaguely that I was very hungry and very thirsty. With two paws I began to tear the fur from my head and to beat my brow. I was shaking all over and grinding my teeth.


How long did this last? I do not know exactly. Three days and as many nights, perhaps.


One thought alone saved me. I told myself or rather I heard a voice that told me: “This is a lesson; learn from it”.


This is what I will do if the Gods grant me life.

Second Day

M. / M.060

So, I have made the decision to live. To live one must eat, and that is why I go each day, like the others, far and wide to seek my food.


This is a difficult season for Marmots. They awake in a desert, amidst the Snows of the Long Night; they are hungry and they must travel afar to find a blade of green grass. It is especially difficult this year, because of the quantity of Snow; above all for me, who dwell so high and so remote.


Even so, I would find these journeys agreeable and a distraction, if I were not obliged to flee my kind and endlessly to search out the paths that are most hidden away, like an evildoer. I was spotted from afar, yesterday, and alarm calls signalled my presence. This is also why I have not dug a shelter down below, where the green grass begins, as is our custom each Spring. I descend in the morning, and I climb back into my solitude when I have browsed.

Sixth Day

M. / M.061

I have returned late and tired these last days; today I have several hours before me.


Observations on my awakening were almost none.


None on myself. I arose too abruptly, and once out of my Burrow, in the presence of the Sun, I had no thought for anything except my defeat. I barely felt the indisposition that ordinarily attends our awakening. I had neither vertigo, nor was my head heavy. We must undertake a painful effort, when we recover our senses, to purge ourselves of all this autumnal fat, which is transformed into water, and from which some claim that we live during the sleep of the Long Night. It is very likely that it happened this time like alway; but I remember nothing of it. Nor do I recall getting over the suffering occasioned by the pricks and itches of the blood as it warms up. I suffered from hunger, but only on the second or third day. Otherwise, all is drowned in the shame of this awakening.


One must, I think, possess a very detached spirit to observe oneself, in the morning, at the moment when one awakes; it is more difficult than in the evening, when one goes to sleep. In the evening, the normal state is wakefulness, on which sleep gains little by little. Between lapses into slumber, there are moments of lucidity; one feels sleep coming. In the morning, it is the opposite; the normal state then is sleep, and by the time one’s mind is sufficiently lucid to be able to observe oneself, one is already awake. In the evening, it is possible to espy the onset of the phenomenon; in the morning, it is possible to follow only its conclusion. For Science, the conclusion is not worth as much as the onset. It is the first glimmer that one must seize.


What I observed in Nature may be reduced to two points: Sun and Snow.


The Sun did not rise where it set, but much higher. The first time that I saw it rise, that is to say, three or four days after my awakening, it was already sufficiently high as no longer to disappear behind the mountains. For it to rise that far, it would require more than a month, in ordinary time.


As far as the Snow is concerned, there was more of it than I had ever seen. The little valley where flowers the Golden Clover was completely filled; it remains so. A certain boulder, at the foot of the rocks, measuring at least ten Marmot heights, is covered. To find green shoots we must descend to a level just above the first dwellings of Man. The majority of Marmots had to open a gallery in the Snow in order to leave their Burrows. I had no need, because mine is dug almost on the edge of the precipice, where the wind prevents the Snow from building up. But three pawsteps to the rear, all was white.

Seventh Day

M. / M.062

The south wind is raging; the Snow is melting and cracking everywhere. The streams will soon be torrents, the waterfalls cataracts. I have passed a large part of my day, sitting before my hole, watching the avalanches, on the other side of the valley. It was rapid fire. There is no greater spectacle when it is possible to observe it from a place of safety and from the elevation of a conscience that is at rest. Other Marmots make sport of it. So too did I, once upon a time. Nature used to amuse me; today I contemplate her.

E. Rambert: La marmotte au collier (1889)

trans. R. L. Hewitt: The Marmot with the Collar (2020)

The Marmot with the Collar
A Trilingual Edition

Part 02.01 (English)

Richard L. Hewitt
Kamuzu Academy, Malawi

2020 - 2022